Seven years after Mikel Arteta left Everton for Arsenal they may have finally found his replacement. Andre Gomes has filled a hole that the Blues have been looking to fill for the best part of a decade.
Dubbed the best little Spaniard we know by an adoring Goodison Park faithful, Arteta was an undisputed star during his time on Merseyside. Ask anyone to rank the club’s best ever signings and he is always towards the top of the list.
Fleet of foot with an eye for a pass and a goal, he finished the 2006-07 campaign with nine goals in 35 league games, no club in the Premier League has ever spent £2 million better. Man of the match awards were a regular occurrence as far as Arteta was concerned.The centre of Everton’s midfield has not been the same since his departure. Replacing him has been an issue that successive managers have failed to solve. Marco Silva and Marcel Brands, however, appear to have succeeded. The capture of Andre Gomes on loan from Barcelona this summer is looking like an Arteta level steal.
Gomes never fitted in at the Nou Camp, struggling to live up to the pressure placed on every central midfielder who wears the famous colours. Such pressure is always there given the pedigree that has gone before. That pressure has been amplified in a world in which Los Cules are seeking replacements for both Andres Iniesta and Xavi.
Goodison Park, on the other hand, suits Gomes perfectly. Like the big fish in the smaller pond, he’s adapted to life on Merseyside and already looks an ideal fit for the role Marco Silva has laid out for him.
After an impressive display on his debut against Crystal Palace and another credible showing in the defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, last Saturday’s win over Brighton was where he showed what he’s about. In an impressive all-around performance from the Blues, which also included starring displays from Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Idrissa Gana Gueye, Gomes shone from minute one.
He finished the 3-1 victory having made more passes and completed more passes than any other player on the pitch. His pass accuracy of 86% was among the highest in the game. Everton dominated possession and Gomes was the chief reason why his consistent circulation of the ball in midfield keeping the Blues in control of the game.
It was in the final third where his talent was most telling. While Sigurdsson was laying on assists and Richarlison putting the ball in the back of the net, it was Gomes’ play that was allowing them to do so.
He finished the game with the most forward passes as well as topping the charts for most passes in the final third and most successful passes in that zone too. As good a midfield display as one could wish for. One that was certainly vital to his side’s impressive performance and victory. Gomes could quite literally be described as the orchestrator of the win.
For those watching it brought back stark memories of Arteta and how he used to control the midfield in the same manner. Since his departure, no player has the talent to do it for the Blues. It became a particular problem under Roberto Martinez, whose side were arguably that creative midfielder away from being a real force.
This Marco Silva team now has one. Unlike last season where the offence was often disparate from the rest of the team, this one is connected by Gomes connecting things in midfield. With talents such as Sigurdsson in front of him and a fast forward line of Richarlison, Bernard and Walcott to pick from, this team is one he has plenty of options in. His performance against Brighton showed he is ready to shine once again.
Of course, bigger and tougher opponents than the Seagulls await Everton. Gomes will certainly face a tougher midfield test when up against Chelsea this weekend, for example.
But so far the Portuguese midfielder has shown he may be ready to shrug off his disappointing spell at Barcelona and shine once again. Everton are already reaping the rewards. Seven years on from Mikel Arteta’s exit, they may have finally filled the hole the Spaniard left in their midfield.
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